By Ben Westhoff and Sarah Purkrabek
By Steve Brennan
By Joseph Hess
By Allsion Babka
By Kelsey McClure
By RFT Music
By Christian Schaeffer
By Gabriel San Roman
Tragic irony, cosmic prank or sheer coincidence? No matter how you choose to interpret it, the fact stands that two of St. Louis' best rock groups, Nadine and Grandpa's Ghost, are playing at different venues on Friday, January 17. (How now, cowtown? Isn't the main advantage of living in a brackish backwater supposed to be that shit like this isn't allowed to happen?) It's a real bummer for fans of both bands because, chances are, if you like one, you also like the other. That's not to say that Nadine and Grandpa's Ghost are interchangeable -- they don't even sound much like each other, in fact -- but they share more than a few similarities. Both bands inspire lotsa critical slobber in fancy prestige rags (Nadine got a nice write-up in MOJO; Grandpa's Ghost was endorsed by Chuck Eddy in the Village Voice). Both bands provoke incessant Neil Youngcomparisons -- no doubt such a compliment gets annoying after a while, but it's not entirely unwarranted. Both bands get off on mind-fucking fans of roots rock and alt-country through experimental tactics both subtle and extreme. And, perhaps most important, both bands' frontmen have a not-so-secret affinity for John Denver.
So, how will you decide which band's gonna drag you off your particular couch this Friday night? Radar Station's in a real quandary: We can't possibly make up your mind for you when we can barely make up our own. The best we can do is present the relevant information and hope that splitting the potential audience in two won't hurt attendance at either show.
Since early January, Grandpa's Ghosthas been traveling cross-country with the Upland Breakdown Tour, promoting its strange and lovely new double CD, (The Tumble/Love Version), which Radar Station recently decreed one of the best local releases of 2002. Spot -- the legendary SST producer, Celtic iconoclast and all-around sonic eccentric -- couldn't get out of jury duty, alas, so he won't be performing with the Ghost at the Way Out Club on Friday, as originally scheduled. Instead, local noise purveyor Chris Smentkowksi's Sasquatch Telepath will play, along with the Ghost's Upland labelmates the Stop and Listen Boys, who've got an oddly compelling, scarily authentic-sounding prewar acoustic jug-band country-blues thing going on.
In other Ghostly news, singer/songwriter/guitarist Ben Hanna reports that the band has a multimedia collaboration in the works. Writes Ben, by e-mail: "We've recently completed an interpretation of [Edgar Allan] Poe's 'The Tell-Tale Heart,' which is going to be visually responded to by Jim Fotopoulos, a Chicago filmmaker."
Nadine -- who will be at Mississippi Nights on Friday, with support from local roots-rockers Earl and local drone-mongers Potomac Accord -- also have a new album to promote, although it isn't out yet, technically speaking. Radar Station's among the lucky few to have an advance of Strange Seasons, Nadine's fourth full-length, and it's a beaut. For the first time ever, the band didn't record at Undertow, where two members of the group are employed. Instead, they went all the way to Texas to work with Centro-matic's Matt Pence, who recently opened his own all-analog studio. "We know him, we love him, we trust him," singer/guitarist Adam Reichmann explains. "We also wanted to get out of Dodge, sort of. Every other time we've done a record, we had to do it sort of piecemeal because our regular lives are in this town. This time, we wanted to really focus on it, prepare for an event. It was kind of expensive, though. We recorded for two weeks, and then we mixed for two weeks. We took two vans down there, we had two Hammond organs, we had all our guitars and amps, plus a lot of guitars that we borrowed from friends. But we sort of turned into the Army Corps of Engineers, and then it was just a little paradise for a couple of weeks."
Nadine's previous records were released on the Undertow imprint, but the band has decided to shop Strange Seasons around to different labels. According to Reichmann, the reasons were creative rather than financial: "Up until a year ago or so, Steve [Rauner] and I have been really involved with the label, as workers and artists. We've been doing this for many years, and we're ready to turn over some rocks." The band sent approximately 250 copies of the CD to labels and is beginning to get some positive feedback. "We're such a dorky band," Reichmann says, laughing. "We're not even susceptible to trends because I don't even know if we're cool enough to know what's going on. Whenever this thing comes out, it's gonna show up the same way."
The first 100 people at the door will receive Nadine's limited-edition Artifact, which contains five songs from Strange Seasons and assorted rareties.